Sunday, 18 February 2018

Individual v National Election

Of course terms like 'elect', 'predestined' and 'justified' refer to individual believers also, not just to the Church in general, not just to Messiah, not just to Israel (the nation), nor just to the remnant of Israel, and not just to Israel (the individual, Jacob). 

But the terms themselves weren't coined in order to answer the kinds of questions which were being grappled over by Calvinists and Arminians in the Synod of Dort in the 17th century!

Romans 9-11 still was largely about Israel and how Israel fits in Paul's gospel. So the terms Paul uses, though they're about individuals too, were used within the framework of questions which were largely to do with Israel. 

The terms were used to give reassurance to believers, originally as a polemic against the types of opposing ideas which they were facing in the first century AD.

A question early Christians weren't asking, for example - and which Paul wasn't addressing - was 'Why does one individual get saved, but not another'.

But he was using the terms in order to demolish anti-Gentile discrimination within the churches;

To reassure the community of Gentile believers, against the Judaisers, that God had justified them even without them needing to become proselytes to Judaism;

And to address the misconception that God's promises to Israel had failed;

To nip anti-semitism in the bud, by showing that the mission to Jewish individuals hadn't ended;

To show that God's purposes really were summed up in Jesus the Messiah, and them in Him;

To convince both Gentiles and Jews that the outcome they were participating in through the gospel (by grace, through faith, rather than through Judaism), was precisely the outcome, basis, method and scope of the salvation which had been long-promised in the Scriptures of the Prophets; 

And all of that was to lay the groundwork for true equality in the mixed Gentile/Jewish congregation at Rome (an equality, a unity which he then gets practical about in the rest of the epistle, which really is the high point of the Epistle - it's where he was going from the start).

The terms (like 'elect' and 'predestined') don't in themselves provide a detailed answer to the behind-the-scenes goings on with regard to questions like why this individual didn't get saved but that individual did. The mere etymology of the words can't provide that information.

That's not a question that threatened the survival of the gospel and the early church.

It's not a question Paul had to answer for them.

It's not a question they were asking.

And even if it was, the usual meanings many are giving Paul's answers, wouldn't really have satisfied the Jewish mind, nor prevented the tendencies in the Gentiles' minds which Paul said he was wanting to avoid. If that's what Paul meant, it would have had the opposite affect, on both counts.

The meaning a term has, even when applied to individuals, is determined by the question it was answering.

It's not determined by other questions of our own asking.

No comments:

Post a Comment